Christmas Train Fun in Northwest Arkansas

Tomorrow morning, downtown Springdale will be full of excitement and wonder as the Children’s Christmas Train departs on a magical 30-minute excursion to Johnson and back. Those aboard the cozy 1940s era train will enjoy storytelling, Christmas carols, and a visit with the man in red. More fun is in store once the train returns to the Emma Street Train Depot, including rides on ponies masquerading as reindeer, operating a model train, live music, penning letters to Santa, and a cake walk. It is an extremely popular event year after year and the tickets sell out quickly.  If you want to be the first to know next year, be sure to like The Children’s Safety Center on Facebook. Proceeds from the event go to the organization to further their efforts in helping victims of child abuse. The tickets are usually available starting in September. I’m putting a reminder on my calendar for next year!

Photo by Children’s Christmas Train

 If you, like myself, are just now hearing about the Children’s Christmas Train, or if you just missed your chance to get tickets, don’t worry, there are plenty of other train-theme holiday events in the area to awe kids of any age!


Holiday Express departing from Springdale, Van Buren & Seligman {various dates and times}
The Holiday Express is a more low-key option offered by the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. The Express is a 30-minute excursion like the Children’s Christmas Train, and you still get to see Santa Claus. Go read fellow Arkansas Women Blogger Rhonda Franz’s article about the Holiday Express on OnlyinArk.com and then check back later this month for pictures and stories from our own ride!

Gardenland Express in Fayetteville {December 5 & 6, 12 & 13}
Gardenland Express is presented by the Botanical Garden of The Ozarks and features a model train display from the Northwest Arkansas Garden Railway Society. The train is sure to delight the train-obsessed kid and adult alike as it chugs around a winter village landscape. You can also participate in a holiday craft, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy a hay ride and more! Here are some details on the particular events for each day:

 
December 5–Storytime with the the Little Sprouts Program Team
December 6–Making Ornaments out of Recycled Materials with Washington County Environmental Affairs
December 12–Stone Balancing with Gravity Whispers
December 13–Making Ornaments out of Recycled Materials with Washington County Environmental Affairs

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children 5-12, and free for kids under 5. 


Santa on the Caboose in Rogers {Saturdays, December 5, 12, & 19}
A Christmas wish come true for boys and girls of Northwest Arkansas! Hosted by Main Street Rogers, Santa on the Caboose is just that, a chance to visit with Santa Claus and get a photo inside a Frisco caboose in Downtown Rogers! You can find Santa on the corner of Walnut and 1st Street each Saturday in December before Christmas, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. There is no charge to visit with Santa, bring your own camera for photos!

Photo by Main Street Rogers

Did I miss any Christmas train activities that your child loves? I know Young Master Gray is looking forward to our Holiday Express train ride, and I know he’ll enjoy Gardenland Express. However, judging from last year’s visit with Santa at Northwest Arkansas Mall, I have a feeling we may have to settle for a picture of him with the caboose sans Santa!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree {And what to do with it}

If all you’re doing with your pumpkins is carving them, you’re doing yourself a disservice! Making your own pumpkin puree is super simple and saves you from using the BPA-lined cans of puree (for convenience sake while still staying safe, there are a few brands who make boxed puree, check out this one and this one).

We went to the pumpkin patch in October to pick out our pumpkins and came home with a variety of pumpkins and squashes. There is nothing wrong with buying your pumpkins from the grocery store or Walmart, I buy them from those places as well, but I always try to buy local when I can.

Plus, going to the pumpkin patch is a lot of fun! And there are cute photo ops!

Once you have your pumpkin, wash it really well and cut it in half, from the stem down. 

Scoop out all of the seeds and guts. Set the seeds aside to roast later. Cover each half of the pumpkin with foil and set on a cookie sheet, foil side up. Place the cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Bake for about an hour, or until the flesh is tender and is easily pierced by a fork. Once the pumpkins cool, scoop out the pumpkin flesh (or just peel away the skin) and puree in a food processor.

Now you’re all ready to make pumpkin goodness galore! Here are a few paleo pumpkin recipes to try with your fresh puree:

I tried to choose recipes with simple ingredients for anyone who is not on a paleo diet, but wants to try some of these recipes anyway. Besides coconut flour and almond flour, most of the ingredients for these recipes should be things you already buy or have stocked in your pantry!

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? The holidays are the perfect time to make both tried and true recipes and new ones that will wow your family and guests. Don’t you agree? I hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be sexist

I have never really considered myself a leader. Yes, I have gone out for and won leadership roles at various times in my life, but I never felt a strong call to lead. The moment I became a mom, that changed. Now my days are full of leadership. A heavy burden, and one that I do not take lightly. My son is only two and at this point in his life he believes that the world is all about him (it’s also sometimes about mama, daddy or papaw). It is up to me to lead by example, to show him that the world is also about others, about giving to others, about sharing with others, and taking the time to listen to and care for others.

Recently, I filled out a form for his school and one of the questions asked, “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?” I had left the task of filling out the form to the last minute and had to turn it back in that morning so I jotted down some generic things about wanting him to be healthy, successful, educated, a good citizen and a good father. I do want all of those things for him, I do. I want so much more for him than that though. I want him to be compassionate towards others, those that are downtrodden, left out in the cold, homeless, orphaned and in poverty. I want him to be passionate about his beliefs and to follow his heart without listening to the naysayers or those who would tear him down or doubt him. I want him to be generous, giving of his time, funds, and heart to those that he loves and even to those he may not even know. I want him to treat all people with the same regard, no matter their gender, skin color, sexual preference, religious affiliation, or anything else that society continuously tells us divides us. I want him to be exposed to, learn about and embrace other cultures. I hope that he will speak out against injustice.

This month, #NWARKCares is spotlighting women in politics and leadership. It occurred to me while reading about all the ways that we as women can work to improve the appalling statistics, no one mentions training up boys and men to advocate for women in these roles. There is plenty of talk about empowering girls to engage in leadership roles, but not one thing about making sure we are teaching boys that women belong in those leadership roles right alongside them, or even teaching them to think being subordinate to a women in leadership is normal. Now it is very possible that I missed those articles or was not looking in the right places, but I read many and out of those I would think there should have been at least one mention.

About those appalling statistics I mentioned before. Let’s just talk about right here in my state. Did you know that even though women are half the population in the state of Arkansas, only 17 percent of the General Assembly in Arkansas is made up of women? Arkansas is one of 24 states that have never had a female governor. According to a 2012 Legislative Report, the poverty rate in Arkansas for female-headed families with children was 47 percent. Not surprisingly then, women continue to make less money than men in Arkansas. All of these statistics were gathered from womenleadarkansas.org, a non-partisan non-profit with a mission to empower women and girls to engage in politics, policy and leadership. I should note that they welcome men to join, as long as they share their belief that women should be better represented in politics, leadership and policy.

In a recent speech at Glamour’s Woman of the Year awards, Reese Witherspoon spoke about women being underrepresented not only on screen but in every industry. She drew attention to the fact that ambitious women are stigmatized. “I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a really dirty word.
Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn’t think so.
Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish
things? Why is that perceived as a negative? In a study by Georgetown University in 2005, a group of professors asked
candidates to evaluate male efficient versus female efficient in
politicians. Respondents were less likely to vote for power-seeking
women than power-seeking men. They even reported ambitious women as
provoking feelings of disgust,” she said. The rest of the speech is full of eyeopening and empowering antidotes like this. If you have the time to watch it, I highly recommend doing so.

So, how do we raise our boys to see ambitious women as women who need support, not derision? Where do we start?

-Start early. 
At the age my son is now he plays with trucks and dolls, his play kitchen and his train set. He loves helping with “chores” like washing dishes, sweeping and vacuuming. According to Lise Eliot, author of “Pink Brain, Blue Brain,” parents are more likely to encourage girls to freely choose to play with whatever toys they like and to advocate for them to be whatever they want to be. They are not so likely to facilitate the same environment for boys, and are more likely to discourage them from playing with traditionally girl toys. Our own preconceived notions about gender shape what our children will come to believe. Instead of being encouraged to play with toys that teach nurturing, boys are left only with toys that teach strength, physical ability and aggression. It doesn’t take long then for them to see what values are held in higher esteem.
 
-Teach them to value and understand the perspectives of others.
If boys are taught early to value the perspectives of others, including girls and women, they are more likely to continue to value their ideas, perspectives and plights into adulthood.
 

-Take every opportunity to teach about diversity and equality. 
See an ad on TV that objectifies women? Stop at the moment and talk to your son about that issue. It will resonate much more than if you just brought it up out of context.

-Talk to your sons about how women and men are portrayed in movies, TV shows and advertisements.
Reese Witherspoon, Geena Davis and others are working hard to change Hollywood, but the fact is that women are still mostly represented in stereotypical and supporting roles.

-Most importantly, lead by example in the home.
It is so vital that the values you want to instill are modeled at home. Division of household duties, how you and your partner speak to one another, and your actions showing that you value yourself and your partner will inform the your son’s own personal beliefs.

Maybe all of this is a lot to put on my son’s slight shoulders. Maybe it is a lot to put on the shoulders of parents. Maybe. But isn’t it also a lot to put on our sons the burden of always being strong, never being able to express emotions, especially fear, sadness and hurt? Isn’t it a lot to ask them to be the sole breadwinner in their families, and to take on the guilt that inevitably follows when they feel they are unsuccessful? Isn’t it a lot to put on them the burden of being the ones who are supposed to fight? The thing is, these two years have flown by and I know that in a moment I will turn around and he will be 18. I absolutely must start thinking about this now and begin to teach him that women can and should lead.

{Friday Refresh} Fill Your Cup

When you are a mom (or a busy creative and/or professional or just a human being) it can be hard to find the time take care of yourself. Not only that, but sometimes it feels like an indulgence to do the things you need to do to make yourself feel more human. At least that’s true for me. I feel guilty taking the time away from my family, writing, household tasks, etc. to do something simple that fills my cup like get haircut or read a book. Then, when it’s something like going to get a massage, it can feel like an extravagance.  Taking care of ourselves is not a luxury though. It is essential.

Taking care of others, keeping a tidy home (or not so tidy), making sure there is healthy food to eat each day, working and giving back to the community–whether you do all of these things or just some of them–they take a toll. The things on the aforementioned list range from things that bring joy to things that are just dreaded tasks that must be done. Even the things that bring joy can be draining, and sometimes they take up more time and energy than anything else. I love being with my 2-year-old son and taking care of him is my greatest joy, however, I am learning that in order to do that to the best of my ability, I need to fill my cup as well.

Learning. That word is key. I think the last time I had a haircut was in March, and I’m pretty sure that all the books I’ve started to read this year are still sitting on the shelf waiting to be finished (that goes for some of the books I started to read last year, too). Since it’s been so long I decided to start with the “extravagant.” I took time out of my work day (one of the two days per week that Young Master Gray is cared for elsewhere) and had a massage this morning. And, oh, was it glorious! Apparently, it was much more necessary than I had imagined as this was the first time I’d ever had a massage therapist tell me that I should come back twice a month for regular massages. Clearly, she hasn’t heard about how long it’s been since I had a haircut! I am feeling pretty relaxed, albeit a little sore (if you want a true deep tissue massage, see Carole at Aleiptes Massage in Rogers). A nap just may be in the cards for this afternoon!

What do you do to fill your cup? How do you make sure that you take the time to do those things?

Imagine: A Child’s Adventureworld {Giveaway}

This post was compensated by Imagine: A Child’s Adventureworld. All thoughts are honest and my own. 

Imagine a place where you can take your child on a playdate and sit chatting with other moms while still being able to watch your children play. Now imagine that place as a bright, fun, engaging play space with predominantly wooden toys separated by half walls into areas that let their imaginations run wild–a veterinarian clinic, a fire station, a market, a cottage, a train depot and more. This is the dream that Orie and Amanda Quinn have made into reality at Imagine: A Child’s Adventureworld in Fayetteville. Just as important as the things that they have included in the space are the things that they have left out of it, including screens, coin-operated games and to the best of their ability, germs. Rule number one when coming into Imagine is that everyone must wash their hands before any play begins. That, along with a strict sanitation policy goes a long way in easing my mind about taking my son into a place where toys are played with by many children throughout the day.

 
When the Quinns were unable to find the kind of play space that they wanted for their kids in the Fayetteville area they began to dream up plans for a theme park based on imaginative play. The themed areas in Imagine were modeled after the way the Quinns facilitated play for their own sons, Aiden, 5, and Spencer, 3, in their home. They would transform their spaces into themed areas to play and interact in, implementing various challenges and scavenger hunts within those themes. Once they scaled down their ideas to something that would work here in Northwest Arkansas, they brought in James and Brittany Flammer as partners. James was able to take their ideas and make them into reality by building out the space into the separate areas, and even building some of the playscapes, such as the train that captured my son’s attention the moment we walked in.

You really have to see it yourself to appreciate all of the wonderful detail that was put into the play areas, from the walls painted by artist Jason Jones, to the toys chosen, to the woodwork, but here is a virtual tour of the space. 

Isn’t it a fun space? This place is the the stuff of kids’ dreams, well, at least for my kid. I love watching my son so engaged in play and really using his imagination and creativity. The separate areas help to capture a child’s attention and keep them occupied with an activity for longer than if there were in a wide open space with lots of different options. If you’ve ever taken your child to play in an open concept play area, you may have noticed them jump from one activity to another to another without spending much time with any one activity.  It’s exhausting to watch and overwhelming for the children. The first time we visited Imagine, my son spent all of his time in the first 3 play sections. Each time we have returned, he has discovered a new area to play in. I can definitely see his appreciation for some of the different toys/play areas growing as he grows up.
If you live in Northwest Arkansas and haven’t already visited Imagine with your children, I highly recommend it! The other parents I chatted with seemed to really love the seating in the middle of the space that allows them to keep an eye on their kids while still enjoying the company of other adults. They also appreciate the idea of having everyone wash their hands first thing, especially now that we’re entering cold and flu season.  
The Details:
  • Open Monday-Saturday from 9-5
  • Admission for adults: $4 flat fee
  • Admission for children 1-8: $4/hour with an hour minimum, then $1 for every 15 minutes thereafter. So if you play for and hour and a half, it would be $6. 
  • Monthly passes are $35 for one child and one adult
  • Yearly passes are $150 for one child and one adult
  • Located at 3801 Johnson Mill Blvd in Fayetteville
  • Kids and adults must remove their shoes before playing so make sure you bring socks!
  • Healthy snacks are available for purchase, and you can even buy the toys you find in the play center

Imagine also offer birthday party packages starting at $200. There is a separate birthday room, or you can reserve the entire space if you choose their after-hours package. You can view the different packages offered on their website.

Now for the really fun part, I’m giving away a one month pass to Imagine-A Child’s Adventureworld! Open to readers in the Fayetteville, AR and surrounding areas only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{Friday Refresh} A new beginning

I posted the first Friday ReFresh post almost one year ago with the intention of showing updates of our home remodel. Then our remodel kind of stalled, or at least it is going much slower than I had anticipated or hoped. It turns out that having a toddler in the house is not very conducive to things like redoing floors, painting, or completely gutting the only bathroom with a bathtub. Luckily we were able to get quite a bit of the work done before we moved, including replacing the ductwork, repairing the drywall, painting, etc. However, we still have so much more to do. My hope of a series dedicated to home reno projects seemed to have floated away like a kite without a string. Then I began thinking about all of the different ways to refresh. You can refresh yourself, your wardrobe, a piece of furniture, a routine, a perspective…the list goes on.

So the Friday ReFresh is officially reinstated, just no longer limited to home remodel projects. I love a good before and after and I look forward to coming up with weekly ways to refresh my mind, home, wardrobe, decor, and even my blog. I hope you will come back next week for a post that will be about refreshing my workspace.

What would you like to refresh? Is there anything in particular you would like me to address in this series? I really would appreciate your input on this endeavor. It can be anything! I will try my best to use your replies in a Friday ReFresh post.

(Sharing at Idea Box Thursday)

Fall Adventures {So Far}

There is a lot to be said for fall in the Ozarks. I would go as far as to say that the Ozarks are never as beautiful as they are in the fall. It’s already well established that fall is my favorite, but I think that many would agree that we hit the jackpot when fall comes to the Ozarks. Cool, crisp weather, bright blue skies, and a rush of color that hits you in the face and makes you hold your breath. Fall in the Ozarks is also full of lots and lots of fun activities and events. We’ve hit up a few of those already, including the Arkansas Apple Festival in Lincoln, Arkansas, and the Hollister Grape and Fall Festival in Hollister, MO.

This was our second year to attend the Arkansas Apple Festival, and this year we made it early enough to see the parade. Tractor after tractor caught Young Master Gray’s eye, but the excitement wore him completely out! He didn’t stay awake long enough to sit on one, but we took this photo to show him when he woke up. Just like last year, we made a stop at Apple Town on the way in to check out their selection of fresh apples, cider and canned jams, jellies, pickles and more. Last year the pumpkins were the draw for Young Master Gray, but this year he was taken by the large wheel that he could easily spin.

After we took in the festival, we drove around Washington County with Jeremy’s mom as our guide, showing us different places relatives had lived, worked and played. Our drive eventually brought us to Siloam Springs where we had lunch at Sweetwater Tavern, the restaurant inside the Inn at the Springs. I ordered a bowl of vegetable soup which ended up being vegetable beef soup (heavy on the beef), but it was still pretty good.

The following weekend we made the trek up to Branson, MO to revisit the place where we had gathered five years earlier on the same day in celebration of Jeremy’s late grandmother’s 85th birthday. That day happened to be Jeremy’s birthday as well. The day was bright and the company was splendid. We lunched at the Dobyn’s Dining Room located in the Keeter Center on the College of the Ozarks campus, which boasts farm-to-table fare that is brought to you completely by students, from the food they grow on campus to the servers. I enjoyed the most amazing fall-appropriate salad topped with butternut squash and served with pumpkin vinagrette. The Keeter Center also boasts a lodge that was ranked in the top five of college-owned hotels by Travel+Leisure magazine.

Young Master Gray became a little bit confused when three of the four men he calls “papaw” were gathered around the same table! After lunch (and some photo ops and a good bit of visiting) we headed over to downtown Hollister for their Grape and Fall Festival. I had seen a sign for the festival on our way into Branson so we decided to check it out. If the theme of the Apple Festival was tractors, then the theme of this day was trucks. Young Master Gray was able to climb into the cab of two different fire engines, one old, one new. Even in a day where he got to see three “papaws” and a choo-choo, this was the highlight of the day.

We also saw a few animals including goats, rabbits, ducks, geese and a horse. Young Master Gray did NOT want out of his stroller when we got to the
goat pin, but he did decide to get out to see the ducks and rabbits.

While we were walking through the festival, a train from the Branson Scenic Railway came rolling through.

It was an altogether lovely fall day (even if it did get hot in the afternoon), and I am glad we took the detour.

Next up on our tour de fall, we plan to visit the pumpkin patch and take a train ride on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad to see some fall foliage. What fall adventures have you taken so far? What is on your bucket list for the season?

Autumn in everything

As I walked this morning the wind spoke so many truths to me. I watched the trees bending and giving way to the wind’s touch. They relinquished their dead leaves without a fight. I found myself wanting to let go of my dead leaves, too. Turn over a new leaf, I suppose. Too many leaf references? I think not (hey, at least I didn’t say anything about the “winds of change”). I remember reading a story in Women’s Wear Daily about Nora Ephron after she passed, and something that she said really stuck with me. She said that you could do more than one thing, and that every 10 years she would reinvent herself. She encouraged other women to do the same. I had always rejected the idea of reinvention for myself. While it’s appealing to change, and even though I have changed already, I feel like I must outwardly remain the person everyone knows me to be. I think I just need to let go of that and let the wind carry that person away along with the leaves and my trepidation. 

“Aprils have never meant that much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.” -Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Some things have already changed and more changes are coming for my family and for the blog. “A change will do you good.” Thanks, Sheryl Crow. Something you failed to mention is that a great deal of change all at once is likely to drive you crazy. Even when all
of those changes are good things, it can be tough. It just so happens
that the changes happening for my family are all positive ones, but we are still trying to adjust. Jeremy started a new position that changed his workweek from five 8-hr days to four 10-hr days, Young Master Gray started going to daycare two days a week in September,  and I am working more on this blogging thing than ever. Stay tuned for a new blog design I have in the works! (I am really excited about this particular change.) Then there’s the ongoing remodel that seems to keep our home in a constant state of chaos and upheaval. Of course, these are all favorable changes that I am thankful for, I just need for us all to finally hit our stride so things can run a bit more smoothly.

I originally planned to come on here and write about the fall adventures we’ve had so far, but I think I’ll leave that for another post. Here is a sneak peek:

10 Myths about Domestic Violence

This month’s #NWARKCares cause is a tough one to talk about.
It’s tough because in 2015, I feel like domestic violence should be a thing of
the past. But it’s not. It’s hard because it’s not something that people want
to talk about, which is exactly why the topic needs to be broached. It’s hard
because people close to me have been victims of domestic abuse. Three out of
four Americans know someone who has been victimized domestically. If we keep
silent then those statistics simply will never improve. 

Because many are so reticent to speak out on the subject, there
are countless misconceptions about domestic violence that are accepted as truth.
These myths about domestic violence only serve to perpetuate the violence.

Myth 1:

Only women are affected by domestic violence.

While it is true that women are targeted more often than
men—1 in 3 women compared to 1 in 4 men are victims of domestic violence—abuse
against men does happen. If domestic abuse is a hush-hush topic already, then
speaking out about abuse against men is almost nonexistent. Unfortunately, this
happens in both the heterosexual and homosexual communities.

When I was a young manager for Dillard’s in Dallas, I had an
employee that I will call Sam. Sam was a flamboyant, happy-go-lucky, young man.
He was openly gay and was in a relationship with a man that I remember as
middle-aged and dowdy. When Sam came to work with a black eye one day, I was understandably
concerned. I asked him what happened, but didn’t press the issue when he didn’t
want to talk. As time went on, Sam began to open up to me about the physical
and emotional abuse that he endured at the hands of his partner. At the time, I
had never encountered a male victim of abuse, nor had I even imagined that it
was possible.

If he had been a woman, I know that I would have suggested
any number of resources that are available to female victims of domestic
violence. However, I could think of nothing to offer besides my support if he
chose to leave his abuser. Sam ended up leaving Dillard’s after an accident put
him in the hospital. Whenever I went to visit him at the hospital his partner
was always present, acting the doting caregiver. I will never know if he truly
suffered an accident or if things escalated with his partner.

You may be surprised to know, as I was, that there are resources for male victims of domestic violence. The Northwest Arkansas Women’s shelter states on their website, “Domestic violence does not discriminate; therefore, our clients are from
across all demographics in terms of age, gender, race, socioeconomic
status, and educational background. We assist any person who meets the
criteria for emergency intervention and assistance due to domestic
violence or sexual assault.”

Myth 2:

Abuse is deserved.

Victims of domestic abuse need support, not judgment. The
women and men who are abused usually already have the idea in their head that
they deserve to be treated they way they are treated, or that something that
they have done has caused the abuse. This simply is not true. The only person
responsible for abuse is the abuser.

Myth 3:

Physical battery is the only form of abuse.

Abuse stems from the abuser’s need for power and control. This can
manifest itself in many forms of abuse including economic, emotional, sexual
and isolation.  

Myth 4:

Domestic violence is a heterosexual issue only.

Homosexual partner abuse is prevalent and occurs at the higher
rates than in heterosexual relationships. In this eye-opening article from “The Atlantic,” the
author quotes a report from the CDC stating that “bisexual women had an
overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been
with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43
percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For
gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.” 

Myth 5:

Domestic violence only affects the poor.

Abuse can happen to anyone. Persons of any economic
background, class, culture, age, sexual orientation, and marital status can be
victims of domestic abuse or abusers.

Myth 6:

Many reports of sexual assault are false.

The fact is that only 2-4% of sexual assault reports are
false, in keeping with the rate of false reports for other felonies.

Myth 7:

If the abuse were really that bad, he or she would just
leave.

There are many reasons that a victim of intimate partner
violence might stay with the abuser. Often times, the abuser will threaten the
victim’s life if they try to leave. Not leaving does not mean that the victim
is in a safe situation, or that they are not being abused. Family and social
pressure, shame, financial barriers, children and religious beliefs all can
factor into a victim staying with their abuser.

Myth 8:

Abuse is rare.

As stated earlier, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been the
victim of severe abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Furthermore, the likelihood that someone close to you has been victimized is significant. 3
out of 4 Americans know someone who has been victimized domestically.
Myth 9:

Abuse is the result of alcohol or drugs. 

While it is true the 1/4-1/2 of all abusers have substance
abuse issues, the alcohol or drug use is not to blame. Alcohol and drugs cannot
cause domestic violence.

Myth 10:

Domestic violence is not a community issue. 

We all have the responsibility to care for one another.

Here in Northwest Arkansas there are many resources for
victims of domestic violence. Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Ask a local shelter what their current needs are and donate. Peace At Home Family Shelter has a list on their website, you can view it here: http://peaceathomeshelter.org/in-kind-donations/ 
  • Volunteer at Peace At Home Family Shelter or Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter.
  • Donate your gently used clothing, furniture and household items to one of the shelter thrift stores. I have a load of items all ready to take to the NWA Women’s Shelter Thrift Store.
  • Be informed. Know the signs of abuse and speak up.
If you are reading this and you need help or know someone in an abusive relationship, please seek help by calling one of these confidential hotlines: 1-800-775-9011 and 1-877-442-9811. Someone is available to assist you 24 hours a day. 

Bookish

An infographic of “Surprising Book Facts” has popped up in my Facebook newsfeed a few times during this National Literacy Month. Included with statistics showing a decline in literacy among the impoverished, imprisoned, and those over 8 years old, is this gem: “Reading for one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years.” Of course, the other statistics are incredibly revealing and powerful, but this one really stuck out to me. Reading has so much potential to open doors and expand horizons.

I learned this early on while reading fiction and nonfiction books as a child. Opening a book allowed me to step into other worlds and see things from other perspectives, as well as learn new things about the world I lived within. I read everything I could get my hands on. From flyleaf to flyleaf, no page in a book was left unread. I still try to read as much as I can, but lately the books I read the most are ones with repetitive titles featuring colors and animals, such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” or “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”

Yes, that is a copy of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” Don’t worry, we have 2 more copies.

My efforts to surround my son with as many books as possible, and to encourage a love of reading in him has created a bit of a surplus in his book collection. Now a surplus in books in itself is not a bad thing, but these were mostly duplicates. Earlier this month, I took him to a Little Free Library to donate them.

I got the idea after attending my first meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers last month. It just so happened that at this meeting the group launched #NWARKCares, an initiative to bring awareness to causes right where we live using our collective voices on our blogs and social media. For the first month, our mission was to shine a light on literacy. I was so excited that I got busy going through all of our books right away and brought them to the Little Free Library of a fellow Northwest Arkansas blogger I met at the meeting. I had learned from her that children’s books were what the libraries needed the most. Looking at the date that these particular photos were taken, I see that I did all of this before September 3, and yet I’m just now getting to this post. At least it’s still September!

“The Legend of the Bluebonnet” and the only non-children’s book we brought, “Dreaming Cows”

Helping to grow Young Master Gray’s book collection (and creating some of those duplicates), is our subscription to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. When someone posted about the Imagination Library in one of my online mom’s groups, I thought it was too good to be true. One free book a month from birth up until 5 years of age?! Sign me up! I have heard from several moms that the program is not available in their area, but if it is available in your part of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom or Australia, then I highly recommend signing up. Simply fill out a form on the website to start receiving books about 6-8 weeks later. We have received the books while living in both Benton and Washington counties. If you live in either of these counties or in McDonald or Madison counties, you can contact Karen Bryant with the United Way of Northwest Arkansas with any questions you have about the program. Her email address is kbryant@unitedwaynwa.org. If you are passionate about childhood literacy and would like to help, please consider donating to Imagination Library. A donation of just $25 is all it takes to sponsor a child, and they will receive a book every month.

Some of the Imagination Library books we’ve collected so far. 

Other ways of getting involved and improving literacy in our community include:

  • Volunteering with the Ozark Literacy Council. You can tutor, be an ESL conversation partner, stuff envelopes or help with event planning.
  • Donate to a Little Free Library. Right now, if you buy the Little Free Library book for $25, you will get $150 worth of brand new books! 
  • Volunteer at your local library. For someone that loves reading, this won’t even feel like work!
  • Read to a child. Yep, it’s really as simple as that.

Before you go implement these ideas in your community, tell me, what was your favorite childhood book?